Lonely Planet Sucks!

Well, our plan to bike all the way up the Andes failed, but not for the reason many of you might suspect. My thighs were handling the ascent quite well; in fact, on our first day we made it up to about 6000 feet (around 3000 up from where we started). We made it a grand total of only 25 kilometers, though. The elevation gain wasn’t the problem, oh no; the problem was that the road is in horrendous condition.

According to our Lonely Planet guidebook, “The old mule trail joining Macas with the highland town of Guamote is now a paved road.” Lonely Planet can kiss my ass. Lonely Planet needs to do a bit of fact checking before putting something like that in print.

Like the road between Puyo and the Rio Pastaza, sections of this road were simply not meant for bikes. We had to wade through some creeks that went over the road, swerve constantly around rocks, and even walk our bikes for significant stretches. At one point we came across some construction workers and heavy equipment toiling in a giant mud pit. We thought there had been a landslide. After 4 kilometers of pushing our bikes through 6 inches of sticky, sloppy mud we realized that the “landslide” was really just a poorly executed road-expansion project. Yuck!

This is not the result of a landslide, nor is it a paved road.

After our first day of biking (a whopping 25 kilometers!) we camped out in a lookout tower on the corner of Sangay National Park. It afforded wonderful views of the mountains and provided an excellent spot to pitch a tent. It also left us with only 3 kilometers to bike to 9 de Octubre (yes, they name their streets and even towns after important dates in Ecuador) in the morning – which is just what we did.

Here’s an early morning pic of our fantastic campsite.

Once we got to “Nueve,” as the locals call it, we reassessed our situation. Considering the heavy rain that we woke up to, the more and more frequent patches of mud, the painfully rocky road, and the kilometers we’d have to make up from our shorter-than-planned ride the previous day, we decided to take a bus for the next stretch. Mike really wanted to make it to Guamote by Wednesday since the Thursday morning market is supposed to be one of the best in the highlands. We knew we couldn’t make it in time riding the whole way on dirt/rock roads. We had planned for pavement (thanks again, Lonely Planet). Given all of this, we took the bus from 9 de Octubre to Cebadas.

From Cebadas we biked the last 15-20 kilometers to Guamote, and we were both glad that we rode that stretch. The weather had improved and the scenery was great: highland pastures full of cows, wooly sheep, and hairy black pigs. The people along the way were also very friendly and wore the colorful traditional garb of the highlands, which includes Panama hats (which originated in Ecuador), shawls or ponchos, heavy wool skirts or slacks, and galoshes. You’d be surprised what these people can haul on their backs with just a piece of fabric as a sling, too. Sometimes we’ll see women with huge bundles that make them look like hunchbacks, but when we look closer there are inevitably tiny feet sticking out the bottom. That’s usually all you can see of the kids who get carried around in such a bizarre manner. Once we saw a woman carrying what looked like half an acre’s worth of hay, too.

We encountered beautiful mountain scenery after our bus ride.

Can’t you almost smell the crisp mountain air when looking at this photo?

Here’s a trio of indigenous women sitting on a curb. The Panama hats are much more popular than the strange beanies with pom-pons, so this in an atypical photo. The bright colors are pretty represetative though. Just wait until the next post which will feauture market-day photos!

This is what I mean when I say that it is amazing to see what these people haul on their backs!

After our pleasant 20 kilometer ride to Guamote from Cebadas we settled down to wait for market day on Thursday morning. We arrived Tuesday night instead of Wednesday since we cheated and took a bus for part of the way. If we hadn’t we probably wouldn’t have even made it by Thursday night, though, so I don’t feel too guilty. And I’m definitely glad we were able to witness the market because it was probably my favorite experience in Ecuador so far!

I don’t think I can do justice to the market without the pictures to go with it (and Mike hasn’t uploaded them yet), so I’m going to save that story for the next post. Suffice it to say for now that it was quite the spectacle. We had a blast people watching and we walked away with quite a few souvenirs as well. That’s the teaser — now you’ll just have to wait until next time. In order to appease you, I’ll post a few more pictures from earlier on:

Mike wanted me to pick up the bug so that you could see how big it is, compared to my hand. It was squirmy and its feet had tiny hooks that clung to my skin — I didn’t like that.

Here’s a picture of two of the bugs together. We found them on our ride from Puyo to the Rio Pastaza. As you can see, they are quite large. We also saw a moth that we thought was a bat at first — it was huge!

Our first campsite on the horrible road between Puyo and Macas was in some nice family’s yard.

I told you that I kissed the pavement after 40 kilometers of riding on that horrible rocky road — here’s the proof!

We really like the photos of dead pigs for some reason — perhaps because they are so gruesomely amusing. Like this one. It almost looks like this piggy is enjoying a day at the beach, but he’s not…

Since I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting the answer to the latest poll, here it is: $0.72. That’s right, you can buy a dozen roses in Ecuador for less than a dollar! We saw a sign advertising 25 roses for $1.50. Valentine’s Day must not be quite the money-making holiday for the flower shops here as it is in the States! Now that this poll has been resolved, take a stab at the latest. Also, don’t forget to look at our travel map every now and then. Our Ecuador travels make us look pretty schizophrenic.

Comments
2 Responses to “Lonely Planet Sucks!”
  1. Dr_Omega says:

    Lonely Planet will be more that happy to take your comments! Did you see any bats? We saw large ones in India with 24″ wing spans!Can’t wait to see more pics.D

  2. Dr_Omega says:

    Such beautiful scenery & colorful clothing! Such awful roads~ the picure of Jackie kissing the pavement says so much.I give you both credit for your perseverannce on this trip.Miss you.Love, Mom

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